Monday, July 24, 2006

Disputatio on Dissertating: Dispatches from the Archives

While this post is not really a "disputatio" in the formal sense, I suppose after I finish the dissertation my defense will be a disputatio. Nevertheless, now that I'm ABD (like another friend in the blogosphere), and thanks to generous funding from this department, it is time to travel to New England to comb the archives.

My dissertation examines the role of ministers in eighteenth-century New England (the Atlantic and Southern colonies as well), and looks specifically at pastoral dismissal, or "dismission" in eighteenth-century parlance. No scholar as yet has offered a critical analysis of eighteenth century dismissals, explusions partly due to the rising prominence of the legal profession, in addition to a growing consumer/market economy, not to mention theological contests, local church politics, sexual scandals, personality conflicts, and ministerial fatigue. While Jonathan Edwards' dismissal is no doubt the most well-known and best documented dismissal, I have identified a number of others. It also strikes me that pastoral dismissal as a theme in American religious history is something interesting to think about; there are certainly numerous examples of pulpit punts in the 19th and 20th centuries (and I'm sure many in this century).

I'll poke around in the archives at the Essex Museum, Harvard, Massachusetts Historical Society, and the American Antiquarian Society and then head west to the Jonathan Edwards Center at Yale and the Connecticut Historical Society, with a stop thereafter at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to explore their colonial clergy holdings. Since I'm in the neighborhood, I also hope to visit the Hartford Institute for Religion Research as I continue working on two projects (one project with this sociologist) related to Joel Osteen, megachurches, and American religion.

I'll consume large, no, obscene amounts of coffee to have the energy to keep this itinerary and hope to see several friends (1, 2, and 3) along the way.